I spent the first few days of this past week at our Passionist Retreat Centre at Minsteracres in County Durham, where Father Antony is now Rector and Parish Priest. The reason for my trip was that I am now a member of the board of trustees/directors who are responsible for the governance of Minsteracres, and the delivery of its purposes and objectives. I was happy to become a member of the board, both to renew my acquaintance with a place I lived and worked in some 30 years ago, and loved every moment of it, and also to, hopefully, support Father Antony in the great challenge that goes along with his new position, in what is now an expanded St. Patrick’s Province of the Passionists in Ireland and Britain.
My journey to Minsteracres last Monday was a bit of an adventure, as is my wont. I had gone into town after the Morning Mass and Confessions to attend to some business before heading to Central Station. My intended route was Glasgow-Carlisle-Hexham-Riding Mill, where I would then be collected and brought the short distance to the Retreat Centre. On arrival at Glasgow Central I discovered that my first train, whose final destination was London Euston, had been cancelled. Fortunately, however, I had arrived early, and was able board another train for Liverpool Lime Street, which was also going via Carlisle. It did mean that my reservation for a quiet carriage went by the board and I had to find a space in an unreserved carriage. The first stop was Motherwell, and a great number of people boarded the train there, 17 of whom, I later discovered, were from several generations of one family, heading to London to celebrate a 50th birthday. They had also been booked on the cancelled London Train and now, instead of being all together, they found themselves scattered throughout the train. They would now have to change at Preston for London. As it turned out, the birthday boy ended up sitting at the same table as me, along with his wife. Before boarding, someone had handed him a very nice bottle of single malt whisky which he proceeded to open, so as to get the birthday celebration underway. He very kindly offered me a dram which, initially, I tried to refuse, partly because it was a bit early in the day, but mostly because I didn’t think he should be wasting this nice birthday gift on a stranger. He was, however, insistent, and I agreed to a tiny wee drop, which was, indeed, very nice. The journey was starting to improve. Then, when I alighted the train at Carlisle, I discovered that the line ahead was closed, and that they were bussing people from Carlisle to Haltwhistle, to connect with the train to Hexham there. Apparently there had been a derailment a few weeks previously and they were still working on the line. I was clearly going to be behind schedule, and so I texted Father Antony to tell him the situation. He kindly agreed to pick me up from the bus when it got into Haltwhistle, which was about a half-hour drive from Minsteracres. After all that the board meeting was a cinch, and I enjoyed the couple of days immensely. Father Antony and I then decided to pre-empt the return journey, and on Wednesday morning he dropped me again to Haltwhistle, where I picked up the bus to Carlisle, and boarded my train back to Glasgow, no problem.
In amidst the business items, I picked up a snippet of information which, as soon as I heard it, I knew, unbeknown to the man himself, I would be putting it into this week’s Log. It seems that some group that comes to Minsteracres is soon to have a Christmas panto-cum Nativity Play, and that, Father Antony has been persuaded to play the part of a singing sheep. He will be one of the sheep on the hillside on the morning of Jesus’ birth and, when the good news is announced, he is to sing the chorus of George Harrison’s Here comes the Sun. Imagine that, if you can! I can’t help wondering what parts I would give to Fathers Gareth, John and Jus, if a similar event were to take place in St. Mungo’s. I am open to suggestions. Meanwhile…
As always, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.